Not many people come to Las Vegas to clear their heads, but that was one of the reasons 51s catcher Travis d’Arnaud was sent to the Triple-A team by the parent Mets.
The plan has worked out perfectly so far as d’Arnaud — considered New York’s catcher of the future — has been on a tear since joining Las Vegas on June 9.
After batting .180 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 39 games this season for the Mets, d’Arnaud is hitting .410 (16-for-39) with five homers and 12 RBIs in 10 games for the 51s.
“It was all mental,” d’Arnaud said of the key to his success before Wednesday night’s 8-2 victory over the Nashville Sounds at Cashman Field.
“Just focusing in on every at-bat like it’s my last at-bat. Not thinking about a hundred different things. Just focusing on one thing and keeping a solid approach on each and every pitch. I kind of went away from that (in the majors).”
Following the suggestion of 51s hitting coach George Greer, d’Arnaud — who drilled a pinch-hit, two-run double in the seventh inning — also has made an adjustment in his batting stance that has paid immediate dividends.
“George moved his back foot closer to the plate,” Las Vegas manager Wally Backman said. “He was having a hard time hitting the pitch away, but now he can cover the whole plate. If it was that simple all the time, it’d be great. That’s one of the things he wasn’t doing in the big leagues.”
D’Arnaud, 25, is expected to return to New York before June 27. If he doesn’t, the Mets would lose their option on him for next season and couldn’t send him to the minors without placing him on waivers.
“He needed to clear his head a little bit, come down here, have some success and get some confidence built back up,” Backman said. “I’m sure his stay here is probably short term.”
After a mere 10 days in the minors, d’Arnaud appears well on his way to regaining his swing and confidence.
“I feel like my concentration is up and I’m able to focus in easier,” he said. “I feel good. I’m in a good place.”
A 2007 first-round draft pick by the Philadelphia Phillies, d’Arnaud was traded to Toronto in 2009 in a package for Roy Halladay. The Blue Jays traded him to the Mets in 2012 — along with 51s pitcher Noah Syndergaard — for another former Cy Young winner, R.A. Dickey.
Long rated one of baseball’s top prospects, d’Arnaud was limited to 67 Triple-A games in 2012, when his Most Valuable Player-caliber season for Las Vegas was cut short in June when he tore a knee ligament sliding into second base.
D’Arnaud only played 19 games for the 51s last season, when he suffered a broken left foot from a foul ball April 17 and was out until July 31. He was called up by the Mets on Aug. 17 and hit .202 in 31 games.
A career .288 hitter in the minors, d’Arnaud appeared in only 86 games in Triple A before he was called up to the big leagues, where he replaced John Buck when the veteran went on paternity leave.
“We pushed him pretty quick to the big leagues because of need,” Backman said. “There’s more pressure in the big leagues, without question, not only to catch and call a game and run a pitching staff, being a rookie catcher in the big leagues in a big market. Plus you’ve got to hit.”
While d’Arnaud might have benefited from more at-bats in the minors, he’d never say that.
“That’s just an excuse, and that’s not me,” he said. “I just did poorly up there while I was up there.
“Now that I have my mind focused on what I need to focus on and I’m not thinking about things I can’t control, it’s been a lot easier for me.”
D’Arnaud missed more than two weeks this season from a concussion he suffered May 13 at Yankee Stadium, where Alfonso Soriano struck him on top of his catcher’s mask with his back swing.
When he returned to action, he went 3-for-26 in eight games before getting demoted.
Backman was impressed with the home run d’Arnaud hit Saturday in Oklahoma City off Mike Foltynewicz, one of the Houston Astros’ top prospects.
“He was throwing 98, 99 (mph), and (d’Arnaud) turned on a fastball and hit a homer off that guy,” he said. “It has nothing to do with not having enough bat speed, that’s for sure.”
Despite d’Arnaud’s early struggles in the big leagues, Backman is confident the catcher will figure things out.
“I think Travis is fine,” he said. “I think he’s going to be a quality big league catcher for a long time.”
■ NOTES — The Mets optioned outfielder Matt den Dekker to Las Vegas and recalled 51s outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis. … Omar Quintanilla hit a two-run single in Las Vegas’ four-run fourth. … Henderson native Chasen Bradford, a Silverado High School graduate, struck out two in 1 2/3 scoreless innings for the 51s (42-31).
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.